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Brandy

Cognac - Map of CognacLittle did the Dutch realize the contribution they made to the booze world when they first applied the art of distillation to wines.

Wines that were shipped back to the Netherlands from France in the sixteenth century were liable to spoil easily, be taxed heavily, and be pillaged by pirates. To solve all three problems, the Dutch started distilling the wine into a reduction known as Brandewijn (‘burnt wine’) that was later to become brandy.

Distilling fruit wine makes Brandy, and no other country in the world produces them quite like France. The French produce the king of all brandies, Cognac, as well as Armagnac, both made from grapes. The Italians come a close second with fine brandies including the well-known Grappa, fermented and distilled from pomace – a mixture of grape skins, seeds and stems.

Cognac - LOUIS XIII Diamant, released in 2001

Louis XIII Cognac

Besides grapes, brandies are also made from other fruit including pears, plums, cherries and apples. One of the more famous ones is Calvados, an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France.

The best brandies should be enjoyed neat from a brandy snifter (with, at most, a good cigar), but the rest of them can be used to make interesting and innovative cocktails or with a mixer as a tall drink.

Types

  • Grape Brandy: Made from Distilling wine made from grapes
  • Fruit Brandy: Made from distilling juice obtained from various fruit sometimes along with seeds. Popularly known as Eau De Vie.
  • Pomace Brandy: Obtained from the left over pulp, skin, seeds and stems of wine production. It is known by different names in different places.

The three best known types of grape brandy are Cognac, Armagnac and Pisco

Cognac
World famous brandy made from grapes which is protected by the European Union. It comes from the Cognac region from France which is divided into 6 grape growing regions out of which Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne are the most important regions.

The categorization of Cognac

  • AC: aged roughly 2 yrs in wood
  • VS: Very Special or 3 star, aged at least 3 yrs in wood
  • VSOP: Very Special Old Pale or 5 star, aged at least 5 yrs in wood
  • XO, Napoleon, Vieille Reserve and VVSOP: These are finer- considerably more expensive-  brandies, aged at least four yrs (and often around twenty yrs) in wood.

Popular Brands

Louis XIII - Rare Cask

Louis XIII – Rare Cask

Hennessey, Martell, Courvoisier, Remy Martin, Otard, Hine

How to Serve?
Finest and oldest brandies should be enjoyed neat from a Brandy Snifter which can be accompanied with good cigar, dark chocolate and strong cheeses. Snifters allow room for swirling and release aromas from the spirit when served with warm water. Cup the glass with your hands, give it a gentle swirl, stick your nose in and breathe deeply to start enjoying the cognac even before it hits your tongue.

Younger brandies can be consumed with soda, tonic water or in cocktails.


armagnac

Armagnac Bottles

Armagnac
Being the first spirit to be distilled in France, the drink is made from the grapes of the region of Armagnac in south-west France which is protected by the European Union. It comes from Pays de Gascogne region of Armagnac which is divided into 3 grape growing regions- Bas-Armagnac, Tenareze and Haut Armagnac. Main distinguishing characteristics as compared to Cognac are the local grape varieties used for the base wine, the local black oak used for maturation and continuous still which is used for distilling the product.

Popular Brands of Armagnac
Larresingle, Baron de Sigognac, Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac

How to serve?
Consumed in similar way that Cognac is served. It is meant to be had in a brandy snifter without any mixer.

Pisco
Grape brandy made in South America. There is dispute over whether it originated in Peru or Chile.

Don Cesar Pisco

Don Cesar Pisco

It  is always colorless as it is aged in very ancient barrels which hardly have any color left to impart in the spirit. Grapes used are generally from the Muscat family, which makes Pisco very fruity on the nose and palate.

Popular Brands of Pisco
Don Cesar, Biondi Pisco, Encanto

How to serve?
Popularly used in making cocktails like Pisco Sour.

Other types of Grape Brandy include:

  • American – Mostly from California.
  • Brandy de Jerez – Available on its own or used as an additive for sherry, it is a brandy from Jerez.
  • Lourinha – Comes from the Estremadura region of western Portugal.
  • South African – Made almost like Cognac.
  • Aguardente – Means burning water, as known in countries like Portugal, Mexico, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Cyprus, and Italy.
  • Metaxa- Brandy made by using grape varieties like Savatiano and Muscat. 3 grades of Metaxa
    Metaxa

    Metaxa

    are available which determines the quality of product; they are in the form of 3 stars, 5 stars and 7 stars. It’s made in Samos and other islands of Greece.

  • Uralt- German aged brandy, which is maturated for period of 18 months. German brandies have less indigenous character as wines are generally imported from France or Italy. It’s made in the Rheingau region in Germany.

 

Pear and Raspberry Brandy

Pear and Raspberry Brandy

Grapes are not the only fruits which are used to produce brandy. Fruits like apples, plums, cherries can also be used to make fruit flavoured spirits which are popularly known as eau de vie.

Calvados
Distilled spirit made from juice of the apple. It is made in the region of Normandy (Pays D’Auge) in France. It is controlled by French laws similar to Cognac and Armagnac. Similar kinds of brandy are made in UK and USA named as Cider brandy and Apple Jack respectively.

Popular Brands: 
Busnel, Boulard, Ribaude, Camut

How to serve?
Can be consumed before or after meal, also used in cocktails. Young Calvados can be served with tonic while aged ones are intended to be drunk neat.

Calvados

Calvados

Schnapps
Schnapps means ‘to shoot’ or drink in one gulp. They are distilled spirits of Scandinavian origin, which are made with fruit flavouring or directly from fruit. Usually good with meals owing to the light bodied structure. Could be German (fruit brandy) or American (liqueur)

How to serve?
Schnapps are intended to be drunk in one shot.

ArchersPopular Brands
Archer’s Peach Schnapps.

Slivovitz
It is a fruit brandy made in Serbia, Herzegovina and Bosnia. Double distilled brandy made by crushing black plums called Madjarka along with their stones and fermented slowly over a period of around 3 months. Aged in Slovenian casks. It is popularly drunk in Germany, Italy and Hungary. Popularly known by other names like Sljivovica, rakija, and slivovka.

How to serve?
Drunk unchilled as digestif

Popular Brands
Alko, Navip, Manastirka

Other types of fruit brandies

  • Apple Jack- Apple brandy from USA
  • Cider Brandy – apple brandy from UK
  • Kirsch- Brandy made from cherries. Made in Alsace, France.
  • Kirshwasser- Fruit brandy made from cherry in Germany
  • Tuica (tzuika) – Made from either or a combination of fruits like plums, apples, pears, apricots, mulberries, peaches, and quinces. It is a clear brandy from Romania. Also known regionally as turt, tura and hornica.

The best known types of Pomace brandy are Grappa and Marc

Grappa
Grappa is a distillate obtained from the left over product of grapes used in wine production, like skin,stem and pips. It is made in Italy and is protected by the European Union.

How to serve?
Intended for being drunk neat in grappa glass or shot glass as digestif.

Grappa and a typical Grappa glass

Grappa and a typical Grappa glass

Popular brands of Grappa
Nonino, Bocchino, Julia

Marc
Marc is the distillate of the mass of smashed grape skins and pips which are capable of fermentation. It is produced in France in various regions like Burgundy ( Marc De Bourgogne), Alsace ( Marc de Alsace) and Champagne ( Marc De Champagne).

How to serve?
Marcs are unsuitable for mixing. They are intended to be drunk neat in a shot glass.

Marc De Champagne

Marc De Champagne

Popular brands
Marc de Champagne from Moet and Chandon

Other types of Pomace Brandy include

  • Tresterbrand- Germany
  • Aguardente- Portugal
  • Orujo- Spain
  • Chacha- Georgia
  • Torkoly- Hungary
  • Tsipouro- Greece
  • Grozdova- Bulgaria
  • Palinka- Hungary

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